Generalizations never achieve much, but in this occasion, one generalization can explain a lot.
The Yankees lost game three of the 2009 ALCS because Joe Girardi managed a road game as if he were still home.
You can call it over-managing if you'd like--and indeed, it probably was--but managing the game the way Girardi does at home is not nearly as much of an issue as it is on the road, especially in extra innings.
1) At home, one run by your team in extras and the game is over. You don't have to worry about scoring, and then pitching again in the bottom of the inning as you do on the road.
2) On the road, one run from the other team and the game is over. Your offense doesn't get another shot.
So here's the breakdown.
1) The Yankees' biggest issue in this game--and, it's looking like their biggest issue this series--is a lack of hitting with runners on base. Every Yankee run today was via a solo home run, and while the Yankees have had decent enough pitching to win when they score four runs much of the time, much is not all. The Yankees had golden opportunities to add to their lead, and they did not. Andy Pettitte made one bad pitch, and well, boom. A 3-1 cushion is not a big cushion, at all.
2) I don't have an issue with leaving Pettitte in to face Guerrerro although I admit that, since I did not have a computer handy, I don't know what his pitch count was at the time. My issue is with the pitch Pettitte threw: there was no reason, in that situation, to give Guerrerro anything to hit. Guerrerro swings at, well, everything. Sabathia and Burnett can blow it by the former Expo; Pettitte cannot.
3) Chamberlain looked awful. Girardi was quick with his hook, but, alas, not quick enough. Someone--and I can't remember where I read this, so apologies to whomever I should be citing--said that this postseason, Joba's fastball has been there but his slider has not, which may explain why he's been hooked quickly.
The great thing about going to games with well-informed fans is that you get excellent analysis as well, and I thus agree with the commenter known as TSJC: Joba tends to overthrow, as though he is too amped and trying to do too much. It's been an issue with him as long as he's been with the Yankees.
4) I did not agree with Girardi's decision to leave Hughes in to start a third inning. Hughes hasn't pitched more than two since what, June? May? And against the heart of the Angels' order, as well, it just didn't make sense to me. Girardi thus made the right call to bring in Rivera, and, well, Mo is simply not mortal.
First and third, no one out, and Rivera got out of the jam. At the time, the Stadium exploded and we thought it was perhaps destiny that we'd win.
5) The biggest issue I had with Girardi's overmanaging was bringing in Aceves to face Kendrick. Robertson had already had two outs, had little history vs Kendrick (if any at all) and is a strike out pitcher. Aceves, on the other hand, has a propensity for giving up fly balls, and as we all saw, the ball certainly carried today. At home, if the other team hits a home run, you still get a chance to get the run back the next day, but on the road, you do not.
As it were, Kendrick singled and Mathis drove him in with a long fly off the wall, but it is my belief that Robertson could have gotten the third out.
6) TSJC had an issue with Girardi replacing Damon with Hairston, not that he did it but when he did it. With the bases loaded and less than two outs, anything hit to left field is likely going to score the winning run, anyway. It makes little sense.
7) If Gardner is inserted into the game to pinch run, he has to run. He has to go on the first pitch--where there's pretty much no chance of a pitch out. Gardner's not in there to hit home runs, and the only reason to remove Matsui's bat is because you are going for the win right then, and need the RISP. If Gardner steals successfully, Posada's home run is a game winning, and not game tying (fallacy of the predetermined and all).
8) GOOD: Jeter's third pitch home run, holy crap what is A-Rod smoking and where can I get some, that Melky-Jeter-Teixeira play in the 8th to nab Abreu (where the heck was Canó on that? We were trying to figure it out!) Mariano is not mortal, and Teixeira is (again) worth it for his defense alone.
Okay. I think I touched on most of the important things. You can argue whether or not Sabathia should have pinch hit for Rivera instead of Cervelli, but there is no way Rivera was going to go out and pitch a second inning.
If Andy Pettitte pitches to Guerrerro a little differently, the Yankees are probably looking at clinching the American League pennant tomorrow and Girardi's overmanaging is a non-issue.
Such as it is, the Yankees will send CC Sabathia out on three days' rest, and a stop-loss here would be crucial.
We said going in that this series would be a dogfight, and with two extra inning games already in the books, it has thus far lived up to its billing.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Generalizations never achieve much, but in this occasion, one generalization can explain a lot.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The win was there for the taking.
Down by five runs in the ninth, the Yankees clawed back to within one run, and had men on second and first base with no one out and Swisher at the plate.
Nick Swisher doesn't much like hitting at Yankee Stadium, but he still draws quite a few walks, and against a pitcher that couldn't throw strikes, the call for him to bunt in that situation will likely haunt Joe Girardi and the Yankees until their next win.
The bunt may have been the conventional move and the by-the-book move, but there were two problems with it: Swisher's not a typical bunter, and Frank Francisco had been showing himself to be eminently hittable.
The only significant problem I have had with Joe Girardi all year is that he plays by the book just a little too often.
Sometimes--rarely, but still--momentum or a unique situation calls for the book to be thrown out the window.
That's exactly tonight. The Yankees had sent six men to the plate before Swisher in the ninth inning, and all six of them had reached via walk or hit.
When Swisher showed bunt, it became clear that Girardi was playing for the tie and not the win (which is normal when you're home), but one has to ask, had this been any other inning, would Swisher really have bunted there? If this game was on the road, would Swisher have bunted there?
That aside, this game wasn't lost in the ninth inning. It was lost when Joba Chamberlain blew a 4-0 lead.
Some stuff from Joe P. of River Ave Blues:
Nine of 10 runs scored after bases empty, two outs...in both innings Joba allowed runs, it came down to his inability to retire the No. 9 hitter...
Sure, it'd have been nice if Chad Gaudin had not given up those two bombs, but Gaudin didn't put the Yankees in a 7-4 hole to start.
Right now, the fact that Joba is the Yankees' #4 starter in the postseason is a little disconcerting. He's still young, but he's got some serious on-field growing up to do.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A month ago, everything was going so well. The Yankees weren't losing, and if they did, they rallied after that with another two or three wins in a row. They played eighteen straight games in a row and in a period of twenty or so games, the starting pitching had only lost two or three of those games.
Then the team ran into a Boston Red Sox team that it still can't beat, and everything fell apart.
The team isn't playing good defense, and, more importantly, it's not hitting. Not even a little. Certainly, not when it matters, or the players that the Yankees need to produce.
Instead, as we saw last year, double plays and first-pitch swinging is again rampant, as I sit here and watch the Yankees lose their third game in a row.
What is going on?
Out of nowhere, it seems, the entire team has gone into a slump.
I know teams slump, players slump, etc., but this is beyond ridiculous. Earlier in the season, when the Yankees lost it wasn't so bad because the team fought, game after game after game. Where has that fight gone? It certainly hasn't come to south Florida or Atlanta.
I know Tommy Hanson is supposed to be the next big thing for the Braves--and therein is the Yanks' critical problem: An inability to hit (good) young pitchers whom they've never seen.
I don't know why that is, but I do know that any team that aspires to the World Series can't shrug their shoulders and give up when a young pitcher takes the mound. Is it an issue with scouting? With the Yankees' batters? With someone else?
It's become such a big deal now because it's only gotten more pronounced over time.
These guys can't face Livan Hernandez every night.
They have to figure something out.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I don't know who told the Yankees that it was okay to snooze through series with the Nationals and the Marlins.
Because they have, they're now four out of first and once again in third place.
It's as though something happened when they got swept in Boston. Everything had been going swimmingly well, and then, boom, not any more.
The weather hasn't helped, but they are losing now on the road as well as at home. It can't be the excuse for everything.
The hitters right now aren't hitting, and look suspiciously like those of the 2008 team. It's not just that Alex Rodriguez is mired in an awful, awful slump, or that Canó's fallen off to the point that Paul O'Neill's noticed, or that Jorge Posada hasn't been doing much with the bat, either...it's that all of these things are happening at the same time.
The starting pitching has been the best it's been in a while, which would be even better if the offense could do something. Losing CC Sabathia today is especially worrisome given his tough-as-nails reputation.
There's no question that the blame for this game lies on the bullpen's shoulders, but it should have never gotten to that point, if the offense could have done its job properly.
Now, it's only June, but of the past six games, going 3-3 would have seemend a disappointment. 2-4 borders on an unmitigated disaster.
Next the Yankees go to Atlanta, and Atlanta has some great young starters--the kryptonite for this Yankees' team.
It might be a long road yet.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
"Take that shirt off, they lost today!" A middle-aged man shouts it from the passenger seat of a car while I am crossing 3rd Ave, walking back from the subway to my apartment.
"I know," I say, "I was there."
I was there to see CC struggle in the middle innings, to see David Price allow only two hits, to see Rivera falter, Coke implode and BJ Upton's reach be just long enough to end the game, and quash a rally.
I was there, to see, in the ninth inning, as a foul ball knocked out a young girl and made everyone who could see it--those in the area and those sitting immediately above--forget about the game.
Did Mo know it happened?
If he did, it might explain why he couldn't pitch through the ninth. Alas, I have my doubts that such was the case.
Rivera struggled against the Rays in a tied game in the beginning of May, so while it doesn't excuse it, it might help to explain it.
Much is being made of the decision to take CC out of the game after eight, but I never thought much of it. I'm not sure if it was the right or the wrong decision, because it wasn't as though the Yankees were going for the ninth inning with Jose Veras or David Robertson. Still, you have to balance that with Mo's struggles this year, and you end up playing games of what-if-this and what-if-that.
The only real knock on the Yankee offense today was Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada being unable to even reach base in the ninth, though to his credit Posada did battle.
The Yanks' couldn't hit Price well, but looked as though they were running wild against the Rays' bullpen. Teixeira's jack bounced off the wall on the luxury suite level--utterly no question about it.
Tomorrow's another day.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tonight's game wasn't lost when Andy Pettitte gave up three runs in the first in what might be considered his worst outing of the season.
Tonight's game was lost when Alex Rodriguez grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in a game in which the winning team never led by more than three runs.
I know it's not fair to harp on A-Rod because, well, everyone does it, but tonight it really hurt the team.
No, Andy Pettitte wasn't any good, especially in the first couple of innings, but a 3-0 or 4-1 deficit is usually not considered the end of the world unless you're facing a Sabathia/Halladay/Santana type, and even then, if you work the counts well enough, you just have to wait for the bullpen.
Not having Mark Teixeira in the line up (banged-up ankle, DTD) certainly didn't help the Yankees, but the Yankees didn't lose because Brett Gardner was in the line up. They lost because, when the team needed them to, Rodriguez and Robinson Canó didn't come through.
To be fair, A-Rod did have an RBI knock in the bottom of the first, but this might be precisely what is most frustrating.
The one run there was great...but then, with the bases loaded, when some real damage could have been done, he was not able to come through.
Still, some things should not be lost, such as Brett Tomko's three scoreless innings in relief. Since the Yankees only used him and Robertson for one inning, there are plenty left in the bullpen--including Alfredo Aceves and Phil Hughes--that can give length if Wang falters tomorrow.
The Yankees didn't get blown out and kept themselves in the game, and in their last 21 games, it's only the second time the starter has been saddled with the loss.
You hope that Pettitte's not hurt (though this seems doubtful), let yourself bemoan for a little while the inability to hit with runners on base tonight, go to sleep and then wake up tomorrow ready to cheer on Wang's first win of the season.
That's the beauty of baseball.
Tomorrow's another day, and we get to play (or, in my instance, watch) again.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
With A-Rod's situation now out in the open, there are these possible courses of action for him to take:
1) Admit whatever allegations are true, even if they aren't. The Pettitte/Hamilton/Giambi route seems to be the most successful in terms of dealing with illicit substances, although it should be noted that Hamilton's situation was different.
2) Clam up and say nothing, which solves nothing.
3) Go the Clemens/Bonds/Palmeiro route and deny everything. This, I don't need to tell you, hasn't always worked very well.
However, whatever path Alex takes, there is one basic constant--rightly or wrongly, he'll never be considered a "clean" player again.
That clean break of Hank's record?
Gonna have to wait for someone else.
It sucks for everyone involved--Alex, the team, the fans, baseball as a whole.
For every argument that the anonymous names should have remained anonymous, there's the more powerful argument that Alex shouldn't have put himself in that situation in the first place.
We want to like A-Rod. We excused the stripper in Toronto incident, and then tried not to pay too much attention when he started banging Madonna and divorced from his wife, despite their two young daughters.
For everyone that argued 2006 and 2008 were subpar, we said, look at 2005 and 2007.
We welcomed him back after the op-out fiasco and only a few dared voice complaint when he signed on for ten years.
But this, this strikes at the very heart of the game. If it's true, we can't simply brush it aside, and neither can Alex.
While we hope that it's not true, unfortunately, in public perception he's already guilty (just check out that poll on ESPN.com)
You know, I have to think, for all the wishing we did that the Torre book wouldn't be a distraction during Spring Training, I think we may have to be just a little more careful about what we wish for...
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
From River Ave Blues:
Now for a tangent. Many people believe that the Yankees woes are centered around the offense, in particular the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position. Will you venture a guess as to who has the worst team average in the AL in those situations? None other than the first place Tampa Bay Rays. They’re hitting .246 with RISP. Yet, they’re still atop the division. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that they’ve had their top five pitchers going every game from early May through now. But they’re finding ways to win even though their numbers with RISP are the worst in the AL. They Yankees, well, just aren’t.
Just some food for thought.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
It's not that the Yankees didn't have chances.
In nearly every inning, it seemed, the Yankees had a chance to tie the Red Sox--or at least to chip away at the lead--and every inning, when it mattered most, they came up empty.
The boos came down heaviest on Alex Rodriguez, and, it seems, rightly so--two grounded-into double plays, the last one coming with the bases loaded. The player who was the unquestionable MVP last year seems to have completely forgotten the meaning of clutch and instead is playing as though it's still October 2006.
Rodriguez is not the only one at fault, however.
Jason Giambi has been equally not as good with runners in scoring position, and when the two hit behind each other, it doesn't seem to matter if Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu all reach base, because it seems as though none of them will score.
Andy Pettitte did not have a good outing.
The Yankees staked him to a 1-0 and then a 2-1 lead, and both times he could not hold the lead the next half inning. While some of the blame lies with a mysterious shrinking strike zone, many of Andy's misses were clearly out of the strike zone.
What is especially painful about this game is that it matters so much. Last year, when faced with a similar situation, the Yankees swept Boston at the Stadium (with a little help from Scooter the Squirrel) and then took two out of three at Fenway.
The Yankees don't have the luxury to be able to lose this series and still remain serious playoff contenders, so asking them to win the next two games--tomorrow with Ponson on the mound--seems like a tall order.
Unlike the Phillies or the Brewers or (dare I say it) the Rays, the Yankees don't seem to show any sort of fight, and the problem has been going on all year. As a fan, it's beyond frustrating to watch--you want the team to care, but right now it's as though we're watching lethargy in action.
I know I'm spoiled. I don't remember the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs, but I am used to teams like the Nets and the Jets and Syracuse Football being at the bottom of their league. It's a much different experience following a team that isn't expected to win than one that is (and is not winning)--there's no frustration in the former.
The Yankees will have to try to pull out a miracle.
It's not impossible, but they are running out of time.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
There was an early barometer for the Yankees in tonight's game.
In the top of the first inning they had the bases loaded with no one out--and too often, this season, the Yankees have found themselves in this situation and not been able to score.
Today, however, (thank g-d), the Yankees took advantage of the situation and scored two runs.
Though the two runs would be all they needed to win, the Yankees grabbed a few more insurance runs, including two on a Derek Jeter home run and won easily a game that they had to win.
It's perhaps an over-used phrase at this point in time--the Yankees have to go about 24-12 and hope Boston plays .500 ball the rest of the way to have a sot at the postseason--but it's true. Every game for the Yankees now is a must win game.
Andy Pettitte had one of his better starts this year, going seven innings and giving up just one run. He had some great defense behind him, and at one point retired nine in a row.
As far as the Olympics go, Usein Bolt has the most amazing and appropriate name ever, Michael Phelps has gills (but this you knew) and Nastia Liukin is so flexible she makes the Cirque du Soleil contortionists look rigid.
Friday, August 15, 2008
One poster on the LoHud Yankees' Blog has the perfect summation of today's game:
When you read the Yankees' obituary in the papers, it will read--
RIP due to inability to score with RISP
I would like to add that the situation was compounded by an innate stubborness to pitch Mariano Rivera in a tie game.
There's really nothing else you can say about this team right now.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
So first off, I apologize for being so sporadic recently. I've been dealing with some personal issues which will hopefully sort themselves out, but it looks like I haven't been missing much.
This was, after all, a make-or-break road trip for the Yankees, and, well, when you only win three games out of ten, things don't look very good.
It's hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong.
It's easy enough to blame the injury to Joba as a death knell or contend that the Angels are simply unbeatable, but the fact is, the Yankees had a legitimate chance to win every game they played on the road trip.
In at least one of the Texas games, all of the Anaheim games and two of the Minnesota games, the Yankees had a physical lead. They only won three of those games, and in only two of the games, if memory serves, did they not relinquish a lead.
Teams that play baseball in October, it should be noted, know how to keep leads once they have them.
There wasn't any one part of the Yankees that has been more at fault than the other--when they hit, they didn't pitch, when they pitched, they didn't hit, when the starters couldn't go deep, the bullpen was overworked and prone to giving up even more runs.
The ERA of the pitching staff, once one of the best in the majors, has skyrocketed since the eight game win streak.
To add injury to insult---err, reverse that---it now looks like Derek Jeter and Dan Giese are hurt as well.
It's not time to write 2008 off just yet--speaking as an optimist, I won't until the Yankees are mathematically eliminated--but the team is fighting for its life right now, and the fight is not going in their favor, at all.
Miracles can happen, but the Yankees shouldn't have to rely on that for October baseball.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
First, the good: The Yankees won, which is, in the end, the most important thing. Everyone one through five in the lineup scored a run, and Andy Pettitte battled on a night when he didn't have his best stuff to keep Tampa to three runs.
That said, there is one pressing concern.
In the seventh inning, the Yankees loaded the bases and they did not score.
In the eighth inning, the Yankees loaded the bases and they did not score.
In the ninth inning, the Yankees had runners on first and second with no one out and didn't even move the runners over to second and third.
While it's true that good pitching will always beat good hitting, Tampa Bay did not exactly have Cy Young caliber pitching on the mound in those innings--in fact, Tampa's best pitcher so far this year, Edwin Jackson, was the only one the Yankees could get to.
The lack of clutch hitting becomes a much bigger concern as the season goes on, and tonight poor weather conditions can't be used as an excuse.
The Yankees get to go back home for a grand total of two games against the Red Sox; hopefully the return home will remind the bats that hits are really cool when you string three or four or five together in a row.
OPTIMIST TAKE: Kyle Farnsworth pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Mariano Rivera notched his fifth save of the year. On a night that was far from the best start of his career, Pettitte battled and came out with the win, with some good defense from Robinson Canò to help. Derek Jeter, in his second game back from a quad injury, had three hits. The Yankees went 4-4 on the road trip and are back on the right side of .500.
Boston looks like they'll win, Toronto won and for the first time this year, Detroit won two in a row.